Leo Tolstoy‘s Anna Karenina has changed readers’ lives for generations, but for one man in particular, the epic novel saved his life. Over at NPR, we learn the story of Mohamed Barud, a man who was sentenced to life in prison in Somalia for complaining about the conditions at the local hospital. During the years of his imprisonment, he exchanged knocks on the wall with an inmate in the next cell, creating a code for each letter of the alphabet. And, in this way, Barud read the entirety of Anna Karenina to the prisoner next door. “”[Barud] says it didn’t matter how different their lives seemed. This 19th-century Russian noblewoman seemed to be suffering exactly as he was. An honest suffering drives her into a state that Mohamed most feared for himself. Anna throws herself under a train and regrets it at the last moment. ‘I really cried. I felt for her.'”
“I didn’t really understand what reading was for. If I wanted a story, the thing to do was to get my grandmother to read it to me. Then listening to her voice, her story-reading voice which always sounded a little incredulous, marvelling, yet full of faith, bravely insistent, and watching her face, its meaningful and utterly familiar expressions—lifted eyebrows, ominously sinking chin, brisk little nods of agreement when, as sometimes happened, a character said something sensible—then I would feel the story grow into life and exist by itself, so that it hardly seemed to me that she was reading it out of a book at all; it was something she had created herself, out of thin air… But one summer I had the whooping-cough, and afterwards I could not go swimming or jump off the beams in the barn or boss my little brother, because by that time he had the whooping-cough himself. My grandmother was off somewhere, visiting other cousins. So I swung on my swing until I got dizzy, and then for no reason in particular I took the Child’s History out of the bookcase in the front room, and sat down on the floor and started to read.” Alice Munro writes about A Child’s History of England, the first book she ever read.
New this week: Voices in the Night by Steven Millhauser; Gutshot by Amelia Gray; The Dead Lands by Benjamin Percy; The Turner House by Angela Flournoy; The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma; The Fair Fight by Anna Freeman; Lurid and Cute by Adam Thirlwell; The Given World by Marian Palaia; The Winter Family by Clifford Jackman; Diamond Head by Cecily Wong; and Whispering Shadows by Jan-Philipp Sendker. For more on these and other new titles, check out our Great 2015 Book Preview.
“I took my son to Paris fashion week, and all I got was a profound understanding of who he is, what he wants to do with his life, and how it feels to watch a grown man stride down a runway wearing shaggy yellow Muppet pants.” Michael Chabon writes a beautiful piece for GQ about going couturing with his son, Abraham. Pair with yesterday’s essay by R. J. Hernández on fashion in literary fiction.
I’ve been noticing some of the fantastic pages that libraries and museums have put up for their book exhibits. Here’s Czech book covers of the 1920s and 1930s and Civil War maps from the Library of Congress, for example.Fans of audiobooks will enjoy this essay by the pseudonymous Thomas H. Benton at the Chronicle of Higher Education. Link via OPTR.Thinking about getting rid of some books? This Ask Metafilter thread has lots of suggestions on where to donate your books.For a year, I was a bookstore employee who blogged, so the story of this book clerk in the UK who got fired for blogging hit pretty close to home.
Tim Weiner won the Pulitzer Prize for Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA. Then, four years after its publication, he received a box of J. Edgar Hoover’s “personal files on [FBI] intelligence operations between 1945 and 1972” from a well-connected D.C. lawyer. That treasure trove of information has since wound up in his recently published book, Enemies: A History of the FBI, and he sat with NPR’s Terry Gross to talk all about it.